A few streets away, the homeowner said that if I can dig up and move the oak tree pictured below then it is mine. I would love to have this tree in my yard. I'm not sure if you can tell from the picture, but this tree is a solid 15 ft tall. It may be upwards of 20 ft, it's hard to tell.

Also, the homeowner said this is a "live oak". What does that mean? If it matters, I live in coastal North Carolina.

Would a normal person like me with a shovel be able to dig up this beautiful oak tree and move it a few streets down to my house and transplant it in my yard? What would the process be to do this?

Click on the picture for a closer view.

enter image description here

  • Is it a oak? It seems an olive tree. Sep 6, 2016 at 12:41
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    Dig hole in your yard, dig up tree, drag tree down street, put in hole, watch it die - about 95% of the time. You should likely prune the top (as you will surely be pruning the bottom (roots) and you'll want to limit what they have to supply on top. One man with a pen and a checkbook and a tree company stands somewhat better odds...
    – Ecnerwal
    Sep 6, 2016 at 21:31
  • NC? Probably Live Oak, Quercus virginiana: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quercus_virginiana Sep 18, 2016 at 14:42
  • I tried to transplant a birch tree here in Ohio. I severed half the roots in a 3 foot diameter, the other half two months later. I watered very often and it looked good. Rootball got established and I transplanted while dormant in late winter. Watered the thing daily and it still died. FWIW.
    – Evil Elf
    Oct 25, 2023 at 11:50

4 Answers 4


I would say no, definitely not, even if you waited till dormancy in winter. It looks like its been in ten years or more, and by now will have an extensive root system both down into the ground and horizontally. A small crane and grab might do it, but even then, there's no guarantee the tree will survive the move. My advice is to leave it right where it is to continue its life and give pleasure to those around, and buy your own tree if you want one.


Following your comment which advises the tree is being removed anyway, you could attempt to remove it yourself or with a team of people with mechanical means - if it could wait till next year, then trenching this year and removal next year would likely be more successful. But its worth a try rather than just letting it be destroyed...

  • That's the sad thing. The owner is getting rid of the beautiful tree no matter what. So if isn't able to be transplanted, I fear that the worst will happen to it :-( either way, thank you for the answer. I was afraid that's be the case. Sep 5, 2016 at 23:45
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    This is over-pessimistic. There are good records of transplanting mature trees on a commercial scale successfully in the UK, as far back as the famous landscape gardener "Capability" Brown 250 years ago.
    – alephzero
    Sep 6, 2016 at 2:37
  • @alephzero - well, yes, that's true - but if you think one man and a spade did that, you must think there's fairies at the bottom of the garden - he used teams of men and invented a pole and cartwheels system to wrench them out of the soil - see here for a brief description, scroll down a bit to get to the detail of how he did it - and the fact that many trees he did that with died anyway periodliving.co.uk/discover/…
    – Bamboo
    Sep 6, 2016 at 10:20
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    @Bamboo "but if you think one man and a spade did that" - I'm not sure why you think I'm delusional, but being insulted by random people on the internet doesn't bother me, so don't worry about it.
    – alephzero
    Sep 6, 2016 at 17:22
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    @alephzero - my sincerest apologies, it was not intended as an insult, more a wry comment in response to your criticism of my answer; the reference to one man with a spade was in direct connection with the wording in the Question above... we all know it could be attempted with machinery, but the question was about an individual with a spade... which is why I answered as I did.
    – Bamboo
    Sep 6, 2016 at 17:49

You don't need to wait for it to be dormant in winter, but you do need to hire a contractor with the proper tools for the job, like this:

https://www.ruskins.co.uk/tree-spade https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Transwiki:Digging_trees_and_shrubs_for_transplanting

Here's a video of moving an oak tree: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8V886olvEQ

You will then need to water the tree very regularly for the next few months, until its roots have started to grow out into the surrounding soil.

But for a fairly average-looking specimen as in the OP's photo, you might prefer to save your money and just wait a few years to grow another tree to the same size as the one you are losing.


It is possible, but you need heavy equipment. essentially you will be:

  1. call the tree mover
  2. tell them where you're pulling the tree from
  3. tell them where you're putting the tree
  4. let them do the work
  5. pay the tree company

Like above it'd be easier with a tree spade. But maybe possible with out one. If you can, depending on when the owner is going to remove it or if they are flexible about removing it. First I'd dig down around the tree about 2 feet out and about 2-3 feet down and just sever the roots, then leave it until Spring.

If you can do this the tree will put out smaller fine roots near the tree and will help with survival. If you can't I'd still try and see if you can in early spring. I guess you are in NC so winters are not bad. It maybe possible to move it during winter.

Also try to keep as many of the roots undisturbed as possible. Water deeply when you transplant it.

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